By Heath Peloquin
The primary focus of my ministry for the past six years has been encouraging, mentoring, and enabling pastors. I assist pastors through various life circumstances and issues ranging from church situations to family and marriage struggles.
The most common conversation I have with pastors, however, deals with the need for community and dialogue. Or to say it better, it deals with having genuine friendships. Today’s pastors have learned to be more guarded about their associations and even skeptical of others wanting to spend time with them.
I know this mindset comes from life experiences of pain and disappointment. However, I honestly believe many pastors are lonely and need friends or fellow brothers to meet with them to pray, encourage, and share a laugh.
The ability to be vulnerable is becoming a virtue of the past as pastors seek to create an image that proves they have it all together. In actuality, they’re often alone with no one to talk to concerning their burdens, fears, and struggles.
These issues lead to a rise in minister depression and an increasing rate of pastors leaving the ministry. Now, before you give up on this article, let me be clear: there’s hope for deep abiding friendship and community.
I know this truth personally because I’ve experienced the crushing pain of gossip. I’ve felt the weight and pressure to perform at the highest level when I didn’t have anything left to give.
But I also know the joy of real friends who know you and care for you in the good times and in the rough times. I want you to experience the same true freedom and to know the joy I’ve found in developing friendships with some pastors I trust with my life and my family.
These men are not impossible to find and are closer than you think. Therefore, I want to give you some practical ways to begin these conversations and find real friends. Here are four important factors to remember:
Soul care is essential; the enemy wants us to live in our minds so that we’re bombarded by our thoughts, inadequacies, and fears. Satan preys on these things and would love to destroy your family and your ministry if possible.
The apostle Peter reminded early believers of the enemy’s plan when he wrote, “Be sober-minded, be alert. Your adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. Resist him, firm in the faith, knowing that the same kind of sufferings are being experienced by your fellow believers throughout the world” (1 Peter 5:8-9).
Jesus reminded the disciples in John 10 of the enemy’s plan when He said, “A thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.” (John 10:10). Soul care happens when you’re determined to seek community, gather men, and build friendships.
Because this will take time, you’ll need to make plans and give some thought to whom you’d invite. It might be safe to begin at a coffee shop or over breakfast or lunch to start the conversation.
The goal is to meet and start building a friendship, not to compare churches, budgets, or numbers. Keep the discussion about what Jesus is doing in your life, family, and church.
However, don’t fall into the trap of thinking competitively about another pastor’s church or ministry. We’re on the same team. Celebrate one another’s successes and grieve one another’s losses. There are enough things to divide us; stay the course focused on the commonality we have around the gospel and around a love for Jesus.
Find a Mentor
Proverbs 27:17 offers timely wisdom for pastors about the value of having a mentor: “Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens another.”
I’m a blessed man who was mentored by four great men. Each of them had a variety of different gifts, and I would have never expected each one of them to have been “all things” to me.
One mentor taught me to love Christ; another taught me the practical “how-to” of administrating a staff, preaching a wedding, and planning a funeral. Another mentor taught me the value of accountability in discipleship, how to memorize Scripture, and how to share my family. Last and most important was my dad who was a lay deacon who taught me how to live each day for the glory of God and how to live with character and integrity to love my family well.
You must find a mentor! Grab someone who can answer the tough questions and keep you accountable. You need to give someone permission to speak into your life so they can challenge you to stop doing meaningless or harmful things and lovingly encourage you in areas where you’re strong.
A real mentor will build you up, not just tear you down. When picking a mentor, don’t consider a person who only finds your faults. A good mentor will sharpen you and help you. What seems like tough, hard love, becomes a life-long friendship. You need this kind of person in your life
Be a Mentor
I find it interesting when someone says, “Well, I was never mentored, so I have nothing to offer a younger pastor.” You have wisdom gleaned from your own life experiences and can walk alongside a younger brother. Even our failures can be used to teach someone else what to avoid.
Early in my ministry, I was a college pastor and began mentoring a group of college men. I was in my mid to late twenties, and most of the men in the group were just a few years younger. Still with me today are the things we learned from each other, our prayer times, our times of weeping, and the studying we did together. I’m grateful for their friendships.
Just recently, one of the former students I mentored told me he was called into full-time ministry. He started seminary this semester! We wept for joy as we celebrated God’s calling upon his life.
Who are you investing in? Who needs your encouragement, wisdom, and godly counsel? Are you going to be obedient or selfish? Take a risk. Send an email. Make a phone call. Invite men to experience life with you.
Be a Friend
As a young child, my mom would often say, “If you want to have a friend, you have to be a friend.” As stated earlier, pastoring can be lonely and often burdensome.
Pastor, you need a friend—a fellow brother—to shoulder the load with you and to pray and care for you as you do the same for him. This friend needs to be someone other than your spouse and, if possible, it should be a fellow minister from outside your church.
Eventually, this friendship will mature so that your friend will be comfortable enough to tell you to start something or stop something. You need someone to laugh or cry with who understands the demands of ministry. These special people are called friends, and you need them. Building a culture of friendship will encourage you in your daily life while safeguarding your soul from the enemy.
I have two fellow pastors who are my dear friends and accountability partners. We live across the nation from one another and deliberately schedule a time to have a conference call and share our church and family burdens and successes.
We’ll often pick a book to discuss and challenge one another to memorize Scripture and recite it to one another during these calls. During my darkest hours, these brothers have held up my arms like Aaron and Hur did for Moses in Exodus 17:12-14.
If you’re making a difference for God’s kingdom, you’re going to encounter spiritual battles. You need to find yourself an Aaron and a Hur to be close enough to see your need and respond with aid.
HEATH PELOQUIN (@HeathPeloquin) is the Associational Strategist for the North Texas Baptist Association in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. Before accepting the NTBA position, Heath was the Director of Pastor/Church Relations for the Southern Baptist of Texas Convention. Heath has a Bachelor of Music and MA in Christian Studies from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and graduates in December with a D. Min. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Heath and his wife Jennifer reside with their four children in Flower Mound, Texas.